LOST! In Cape Henlopen State Park

In this first episode of season 2, we visit beautiful Lewes, Delaware, “The first town in the first state,” and explore the historic waterfront, charming downtown, and neighboring Cape Henlopen State Park. In the park we somehow managed to get lost among the dunes. And a gastronomic surprise: Great Creole food at Po’ Boys in Milton, Delaware! This is the first episode of Season 2 as we travel the country in our Fleetwood, Southwind RV.

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An Ostrich Farm, A Mud Hole, A Hell Hole, and A Hole in Our RV

It’s always something in as we visit South Carolina and Virginia. We visit Misty Morning Ranch Ostrich Farm where we enjoy Ostriches dancing, but our friends’ RV gets stuck in the mud! In Virginia we visit the National D-day Memorial, then get dropped by a tow truck when our wheel bearings fail. It’s all part of the journey!

Places visited in the video:
Ebenezer Park – https://www.yorkcountygov.com/639/Camping-Information
Misty Morning Ranch – http://mistymorningranchnc.com
Harvest Hosts – http://www.harvesthosts.com
National D-day Memorial – www.dday.org

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All About Thousand Trails

Several friends have asked us for information about our Thousand Trails membership. We bought our membership from https://www.campgroundmembershipoutlet.com and got a great price with all of the help and information we needed. If you call them, please mention you heard about them from Jeff and Kathy Wildrick. I’ll also attach a cost analysis we did at the time of our purchase!


1) Zone Pass. This is the “entry level” membership in TT. With a Zone Pass, you can stay for free at any TT park (Dark brown markers on the map below) in that zone for up to 14 nights. After that you must stay out of the system for 7 nights before staying in another TT park, once again for up to 14 nights. (If you stay 4 or fewer nights you can move from park to park indefinitely with no time out of the system.)

Screen Shot 2018-05-15 at 1.38.40 PM.png

The yearly “Zone Pass” for Thousand Trails is listed at $575, but there is always a “sale,” which is either to add a second zone for free (a $49 value) or 20% off. Or, we can give you a link for $100 off good anytime. (We got ours for 30% off on Black Friday. That’s the only time they’ve ever offered that deal.) The only way to buy a zone pass is directly from TT. ( www.thousandtrails.com )
If you buy a 1-year zone pass you can switch zones once during the year for free. For instance, we started with the Southeast Zone, but since we will be camping in this area this summer we switched to a Northeast zone. You can always add a second zone for $49. 


2) Add-ons. TT recently bought another chain of RV resorts called Encore (These are the blue markers on the map). For $199 you can add 14-days-in/7-days-out free access to all Encore resorts. They call it the “Trails Collection.” We do not yet have this add-on, but will probably get it next year. It pays for itself after using it for as few as four nights.


3) Upgraded Memberships THIS IS WHERE IT GETS COMPLICATED. You don’t need to read this part unless you expect to camp outside of one or two zones in the 12 months after you might buy a zone pass. But, TT has over the years offered a variety of upgraded memberships that you pay a one-time fee for plus annual dues.  I’m copying a list of all the membership levels below with the prices of buying them “used” from TT members who want to sell. We are planning to buy a “Used,” Full-Elite membership this summer because a) it allows stays up to 21 days in a TT park, and the ability to go from park to park with no time out of the system, b) It allows reservations 120 days in advance (helpful for Florida in the winter), and c) it is the only membership that includes 20 “extra” parks that are mostly located along the east coast.

THE FULL ELITE MEMBERSHIP:

             ·         Can stay up to 21 nights and go park to park with no time out of the system

·         365 days a year at no nightly fee

·         Can make a reservation up to 120 days in advance / 90 to OW & MA

·         50% off cabin rentals when booked for 5 nights or more

·         Adult family benefits – up to 8 adult family benefit cards each year

·         Can stay additional 7 nights – 2 times a year following a 21 night stay for   $29.00

·         Includes all 81 membership resorts – TT, Naco, Leisure Time, Mid Atlantic & Outdoor World

·         RPI Basic/RPI Preferred/RPI Preferred Gold for annual RPI dues

·         Annual dues to TT average $549- $650

·         The Full Elite Memberships currently average @ $3650 – $3950 / that price includes all transfer fees

THE VIP / ELITE MEMBERSHIP:

             ·         Can stay up to 21 nights and go park to park with no time out of the system

·         365 days a year at no nightly fee

·         Can make a reservation up to 120 days in advance

·         50% off cabin rentals when booked for 7 nights or more

·         Adult family benefits – up to 8 adult family benefit cards each year

·         Includes 60 membership resorts – TT, Naco, Leisure Time

·         “No High Use Restrictions” – can stay full 21 nights when high use is in effect at specific parks

·         RPI Basic or RPI Preferred for annual RPI dues

·         Annual dues to TT average $549- $650

·         The VIP Memberships currently average @ $2950 – $3250 / that price includes all transfer fees

 THE PLATINUM PLUS MEMBERSHIP:

             ·         Can stay up to 21 nights and go park to park with no time out of the system

·         365 days a year at no nightly fee

·         Can make a reservation up to 120 days in advance

·         Adult family benefits – up to 8 adult family benefit cards each year

·         Includes 60 membership resorts – TT, Naco, Leisure Time

·         RPI Basic or RPI Preferred for annual RPI annual dues

·         Annual dues average $549 -$650

·         The Platinum Plus Membership average @ $2750 – $2950 / That price includes all transfer fees

THE PLATINUM MEMBERSHIP:

             ·         Can stay up to 21 nights and go park to park with no time out of the system

·         365 days a year at no nightly fee

·         Can make a reservation up to 90 days in advance

·         Adult family benefits – up to 4 adult family benefit cards each year

·         Includes 60 membership resorts – TT, Naco, Leisure Time

·         RPI Basic for annual RPI dues

·         Annual dues to TT average $549- $650

·         The Platinum Memberships currently average @ $2550 – $2750 / that price includes all transfer fees

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD OUR PERSONAL COST COMPARISON FOR VARIOUS THOUSAND TRAIL MEMBERSHIPS OVER A PERIOD OF THREE YEARS. https://milesandsmiles.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Thousand-Trails-Cost-Comparison.docx

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The World’s Best Chocolate Walnut Toffee

When I was growing up my mother made this chocolate walnut toffee every Christmas and gave it to all of our family and friends. But why save such good candy just for Christmas?

Here’s the “secret” Wildrick family recipe, along with a video demonstration on the Miles and Smiles YouTube channel!

THE WORLD’S BEST CHOCOLATE WALNUT TOFFEE

  • 1 lb lightly salted butter
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 T white corn syrup
  • 1/3 C water
  • 3 C chopped walnuts (divided)
  • 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Butter two 9” square metal pans.

Melt butter in 4 qt saucepan. Stir in sugar. Gradually add syrup and water, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to 290°. 

Add 2 C nuts, and cook for 3 minutes more on low heat, stirring constantly.

Pour into pans.

When cool, remove from pans. Melt chocolate. Coat one side of toffee and sprinkle with nuts, and let sit for about a minute. Flip over onto parchment paper and repeat.

Want to make this right? These are the tools I use in the video:

  • NuWave Portable Induction Cooktop – https://amzn.to/2sw6wDz
  • Copper non-stick induction cookware – https://amzn.to/2VHMgvU
  • Candy Thermometer – https://amzn.to/2VNTZsa
  • Parchment Paper – https://amzn.to/2VDOP1Y

Have any questions or comments? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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The Royal Flush!

Ok. Not something everyone needs to know about, but still kind of fun!

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New Facebook Page and Free T-Shirt Contest

Announcing our new “Miles and Smiles” Facebook page! To celebrate, we’re having A CONTEST! Everyone who visits the page between now and Nov. 30 and comments on the contest post will be entered to win a FREE “Miles and Smiles” T-Shirt (size large). Come on over and say “Hi”!

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Deep in the Heart of Texas

DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS

We finally caught up with some warmer weather last January as we headed into Texas, and we had a blast exploring the San Antonio and Houston areas. This video has some of the highlights as well as the embarrassing moment when we realized we’d traveled down mile after mile of twisting country roads to arrive at the wrong RV park! Want to learn more? Keep reading below.

Finding our Campground

Lake Medina RV Resort. Medina Lake RV Campground. Can you blame us for getting them mixed up? Or, more specifically, can you blame Jeff for navigating us to the wrong campground? Lake Medina RV Resort is at the bottom of a long, twisting road through the Texas hill country, and as we pulled into the parking area we were suitably impressed about where we’d be staying for the next couple of weeks. But, of course, we weren’t. The lady in the front office was very polite – it was clear that we were not the first RVers to make this mistake – and even agreed to hold some packages that we (Jeff) had ordered in anticipation of our visit. So back up the steep, winding Texas hills we went, to finally arrive at the Thousand Trails Medina Lake RV Campground.

Medina Lake RV Campground

Thousand Trails is a membership nationwide network of RV parks. It gets pretty complicated, but the bottom line is that paid members can stay in TT parks for free. We’ll do an entire blog post and video about Thousand Trails sometime soon.

The Medina Lake RV Campground is famous for the herd of deer that call it home. What beautiful animals! The camp store sells bags of dried corn so that you can feed them, and they’ll come quite close when they see your bag! Sometimes they’re eat right out of campers’ hands, but we didn’t find any that wanted our corn that badly.

A proud resident of Medina Lake

Tucker is in his element!

 

Unfortunately, the water level in the lake was extremely low due to drought conditions so we didn’t have much opportunity to enjoy the lake, although Tucker, our Golden Retriever, was eager to play a game of fetch in the water. It’s a large and beautiful campground and was mostly empty in early February. It served as a good home base for our central Texas adventures. And a good place to watch the Philadelphia Eagles win the Superbowl!

 

Cowboy Church

On Sunday we headed out to the Western Heritage Cowboy Church for a home-cooked breakfast and some genuine cowboy worship. Despite the fact that we were obviously not cowfolk, we were warmly welcomed and enjoyed some good preachin’ and enthusiastic singin’. If you’re in the area, you should consider stopping in!

San Antonio

The Alamo

One beautiful day we took about an hour’s drive into the fascinating city of San Antonio. After a delicious Tex-Mex lunch a bit off the beaten tourist path, we walked to the Alamo. This notorious fortress was the site of a crushing defeat for the Europeans, and of course “Remember the Alamo!” became a rallying cry in the struggle that eventually lead to the establishment of Texas as a republic.

 

The area we think of as Texas used to be part of Mexico. It was largely undeveloped and uninhabited in the early 1800s – so much so that Mexico actively encouraged North Americans to migrate to the area so that it could be developed economically. The plan backfired when too many Americans started moving into the area and decided to declare an independent Republic of Texas. Think about it. The problem was too many North Americans moving into Mexico! Mexico tried to maintain sovereignty over its territory, but ultimately lost the war.

The famous “Homeless Jesus” statue in San Antonio

Enjoying the River Walk

River Walk

After touring this bit of history, we were both ready for a nice cappuccino or latte, so we headed to the San Antonio River Walk, a charming shopping and dining area along the San Antonio River, but we couldn’t find a single coffee shop! We eventually headed back to the car, knowing that our pets were eagerly awaiting our arrival back at the campground. Along the way, lo and behold, we found a great coffee shop! A nice end to a fun day of exploration.

All we need is a piece of driveway and our home is where we park it.

Houston

In the Houston area we had our first experience “driveway surfing” or “moochdocking.” In other words, we parked our RV in the driveway of our good friends Jim and Kathy Hibbard. We became next-door neighbors for several days, which made hanging out with them a lot easier than driving back and forth from a campground. And our dogs had a blast running free in their large, fenced-in property.

Hurricane Harvey Relief

 

One highlight of the visit was the day that Kathy joined the Hibbards and some folks at Pathway Church in their ongoing outreach to victims of Hurricane Harvey. Another highlight was enjoying a great BBQ dinner with Jeff’s high school buddy, Neal Goren.

Our friends the Hibbards

Jeff with his high school classmate Neal Goren. The one in the middle just butted in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our original plan was to keep heading west or south, but some pressing needs at home made this the turn-around point in our journey. We hope to get back in 2019 and continue our explorations of this fascinating state!

 

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Icicles in Alabama, Natchez, and Jerry Lee Lewis

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One of My Biggest Fears: Sick pets far from home!

Okay. There are a lot of things to be “afraid of” when on the road. Accidents. Breakdowns. Break-ins. Bears. Bugs. Robberies. Illness. Stinkbugs.

But one of my biggest fears before heading out on our first long RV trip last December was that one of our pets would get sick. What would we do? How would we find a vet? How would a pet’s illness affect our daily RV life and travel plans?

Take these questions and fears and multiply by four. Yes, we have three dogs and a cat. The dogs are Tucker, a handsome 95-pound Golden Retriever; Oliver, a friendly 9-pound Chihuahua; and Mitzi, an adorable and smart 16-pound mixed breed (Lhasa Apso and Silky Terrier). And then we have Cali, a beautiful, sweet 12-pound calico cat. The seniors are Cali (18) and Mitzi (11); Tucker is the baby (4), and Oliver holds his own middle-age ranking (7).

The Three Amigos

Cali doing what cats do best!

Just a few weeks into our trip, Oliver developed diarrhea. Bad diarrhea. Every 2-3 hours around the clock he needed to go out. He sleeps in the bed with us, and I was on the alert all night. When he would start trembling, I knew it was time. In the dark, in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain! We were in Jacksonville, and it poured for days. When the trembling started, I would put on my sweatshirt, raincoat, and rain boots; put a little coat on Oliver; grab my umbrella; and out we’d go. Fortunately, he didn’t take long to find a spot, relieve himself, and want to go back inside. Hang up wet attire, dry off, crawl back into bed, doze for 2 hours, repeat.

 

Not feeling so well

A few days later, Tucker started up with the same problem. He’s a big boy, but I’m glad to say that he always managed to do his business outside and never in the middle of the night.

When their problems didn’t clear up after several days on a bland diet, it was time to find a vet. I knew the dogs needed metronidazole, the common treatment for diarrhea. I called my vet’s office back home, but the inexperienced vet on duty said she didn’t think she could call in a prescription from out of state. She was wrong, but by the time she called me back we’d already taken the dogs to a local vet, who prescribed metronidazole and of course had to do physical exams and charge us for office visits. Vet #1.

Tucker getting acupuncture

The best resources for finding reputable veterinarians while traveling, as far as I know, are Google and Yelp. You can find reviews of veterinary clinics by googling “veterinarians near me” or similar searches. Yelp will also show reviews when you request veterinarians near your current location. (I checked out a few pet apps but none that I found were at all helpful.) You will almost always find naysayers, so you’ll have to look for overall trends. How many stars in the ratings? What are the reasons for each reviewer’s rating? Which vets in a clinic get the highest praise? Of course, even the best of vets can get a negative review once in a while. If it’s an emergency, or you’ll be in town for only a night or two, you’ll have to take your chances on wherever you can be seen. We saw several vets during our travels, and they were all kind as well as good. Consider writing a review of your local vet or any you use while traveling so as to help other pet owners find a good vet or avoid a bad one.

Anyway, back to the saga. After a course of metronidazole, Oliver was doing better, but for Tucker the diarrhea persisted. Another prescription of metro from another vet finally turned him around, though it took him a while to get his hearty appetite back. Vet #2.

Mitzi getting laser therapy

While all this was going on with Tucker and Oliver, Mitzi was becoming lethargic and uninterested in her food. She didn’t have diarrhea, but she wasn’t well either. I took her to two vets in Fort Lauderdale for tests, follow up, acupuncture, and more tests. She took pain medication, anti-nausea medicine, metronidazole, and appetite stimulant. I hand-fed her whatever I could get her to eat. Thank God I could hide her meds in peanut butter, which she would willingly lick off my finger. Vets #3 and #4.

And Cali? She had one day of semi-diarrhea, but then stabilized. But we began to grapple with the fact that she hadn’t been vaccinated for rabies in a good number of years. Since she is a totally indoor, older cat, our vet had said it was unnecessary. So far, no campground had asked for proof of vaccination for any of our pets. But we were planning to camp at the Fort Wilderness campground in Disney World with our three young-adult kids. Not knowing if Disney is strict regarding pets’ vaccinations, and not wanting to throw a monkey wrench into our plans, we ended up taking Cali to a vet in Jacksonville for a rabies vaccine. Vet #5.

As it turns out, Disney World never asked for vaccination records for any of our pets! Neither did anyone else. We found most campgrounds to be very pet friendly, with some of them offering fenced-in “dog parks” of various sizes. One problem we encountered in several campgrounds was that, despite clear signs and rules, some folks let their dogs run off-leash. When someone would try to reassure us that their dog was friendly, I’d reply, mostly in my head, What if mine aren’t? Nothing bad has happened with off-leash dogs, but it certainly could.

Tucker and Oliver both eventually recovered from their diarrhea and did fine for the remainder of our trip. But it was a long and worrisome first month. We couldn’t identify the cause: a virus, the stress of traveling (but they are good, calm travelers), perhaps the changes in water? We’ll never know.

I just don’t feel well mom

Mitzi is another story. She remained lethargic, her appetite was nonexistent, and she was obviously stiff and sore. A Lyme test came back negative. One morning I woke up to her panting heavily. She was thin and weak by then, and we really thought she was dying. It was pretty awful. With lots of TLC and hand feeding, she gradually improved. She still wasn’t eating much other than chicken jerky treats, but at least the sparkle was back in her eyes and she was able to go on short walks with us.

In our first month on the road, one of my biggest fears had come true! It was hard for me to enjoy our travels when I was always on the alert for how the dogs were feeling and what meds they needed when. It was stressful, as it would have been at home. The stress was increased by having to find and choose well-qualified and highly rated veterinarians on the road. In that department, I think we did well. One vet offered to help us locate a vet who did acupuncture in our next location, and another gave us her personal cellphone number to use if we had any concerns while her office was closed over the Christmas holiday.

I’m glad to report that all our pets are doing well, even Mitzi. She declined again after we arrived home, and our vet suspected lymphoma, but test results proved otherwise. We still don’t have a clear diagnosis, but we are guessing that for some unknown reason her body became terribly inflamed from two previous bouts of Lyme disease. Our local vet sent us to a specialist who put her on prednisone, and she’s now doing great. She appears happy and healthy, barks for her food, eats well, and can even do some of her tricks again. We know there are major risks with prednisone, but we’ve got her down to a very low dose, and we think it’s her best option, at least for now. Vet #6 and #7.

I survived one of my biggest fears, and all the pets survived, too. I don’t want to go through anything like that again, but it might happen. At least I know that we can probably find good vets—and our home vets are only a phone call away.

If you have any additional tips or experiences about dealing with a pet’s illness or injury while on the road, please leave them in a comment below. We’ll read and respond to each one.

 

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A Quick Trip through Disney World

It was a cold day in early January when we pulled into the Fort Wilderness Campground at Walt Disney World. But we didn’t let the cold – or the rain – dampen our spirits! Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights) of our stay.

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